Do You Know The Best Questions To Ask A Breeder?

You want to know which questions to ask a breeder to show that you are serious about getting a puppy and would make a responsible owner for one of their precious puppies!

Don't worry about asking too many questions; Cocker Spaniel breeders expect to be asked lots of questions about themselves and their dogs. They won't be offended. In fact, they would be suspicious if you didn't go armed with a long list of questions.

So, what are these essential questions to ask a breeder?

Don't Know The Right Questions To Ask Your Breeder?

Don't worry if you're unsure what questions to ask your shortlisted Cocker Spaniel breeders because I've done all the work for you.

The questions listed below will help you sound like you know what you're talking about, and they'll show the breeder that you will make a responsible dog owner.

Seven beautiful golden cocker spaniel puppies, very sleepy, lying in a row. The background is lilac.Seven adorable cocker spaniel puppies!

Your questioning will also help you distinguish the puppy farmers and other bad breeders from the good ones so that you don't make the mistake of buying an unhealthy Cocker Spaniel who may develop behavioural problems later in life.

Let's assume you have your shortlist of American or English Cocker Spaniel breeders, or you've seen an advert for puppies that you'd like to answer.

Before you pick up the telephone and contact a breeder, read the following advice and make a list of the relevant points you'd like to cover early in the conversation.

You can ask further, more detailed questions as they become relevant.

Use your judgment about which questions to ask breeders and at what stages as you get to know them.

Cocker Spaniel breeders who genuinely care about their dogs won't breed from them too often. When they do, they'll probably already have prospective buyers on a waiting list, so you may need patience.

In fact, you should be prepared to wait, perhaps even for the next litter.

Two black American cocker spaniel puppies with wagging tails, enjoying play. White background.Do you know the right questions to ask a breeder?

List Your Questions To Ask A Breeder In Advance

Apart from making you sound like you know what you're talking about, having a list of pre-prepared questions will also help to reassure the breeder that you're sound and  can offer a loving, caring home to one of their valuable puppies.

And that is very important. Responsible Cocker Spaniel breeders won't let their puppies go to just anyone!

And quite right too!

Does The Breeder Have Any Puppies For Sale Now?

Ask the breeder if they have any puppies for sale now. Ask if they're expecting or planning a litter soon if they don't.

Ask if there's a waiting list and how many names are on it.

If there aren't puppies available, or their waiting list is too long, ask if they can recommend other alternative Cocker Spaniel breeders.

If you've decided you want a golden Cocker Spaniel puppy, and you're hoping for a little girl (and you're definite about your choice) ask at the outset if they have what you're looing for.

This way, you won't be wasting your time or theirs; besides, it's only polite.

Are They Experienced Cocker Spaniel Breeders?

To learn how much the breeders know about Cocker Spaniels, ask how many years of experience they have with the breed.

The answers to the questions below should help you establish how experienced they are. Ideally, they should have at least a few years' experience breeding Cocker Spaniels.

Black 'n' tan cocker spaniel puppy held in hand, white background.I'm so tiny!
  • Ask the breeder if they're full-time Cocker Spaniel breeders or do they breed simply for a hobby?

  • Ask how many litters of puppies they have produced and how many they've bred this year.

  • Ask if they breed enough to require a breeding license from the local authority, and if so, would they mind if you had their license details?

  • Do they breed any other types of dog, or are they devoted to Cocker Spaniels?

  • Ask if they show their dogs or compete in training and agility competitions. If so, ask what successes they have had with their dogs in the show ring.

The above are important questions because the answers will help you understand how experienced they really are.

You can find a list of Kennel Club-assured breeders on their website.

Are Their Puppies Raised In Kennels or In Their Home?

Find out if their puppies are raised in kennels or the family home. This is really important.

It's much better if the pups are raised in the home because contact with people, particularly children, significantly helps when socializing puppies.

If there isn't enough space for puppies to be reared inside the home, it's acceptable to have the whelping box in a heated outhouse or shed close by where they can be checked on regularly.

A whelping box separate from the house will almost guarantee that the dam has somewhere private (and safe) to give birth and look after her puppies in relative peace and quiet.

A good breeder regularly brings the puppies into the house, where they can be given lots of gentle handling and cuddles to ensure they're not under-socialized.

Ask If You Can View The Puppy's Parents

When you first contact your Cocker breeder, ask whether or not you'll be able to see the puppy's mum and dad.

It's unusual for both parents (sire and dam) to be available for you to meet as the sire is usually owned by another family or kennel unless the breeder owns both dogs.

At the very least, the breeder should be able to give you a photograph and some background information on the sire, for example, pedigree, health, testing, height, weight, awards won, etc.

Grey and black adult cocker spaniel, headshot. Indoor background.What a handsome boy!

Be very suspicious if there is little or no information on the father or if the puppy's Mum isn't available for viewing; it could be that the puppies are being sold on behalf of an unscrupulous breeder or a puppy farmer.

It would be best if you were shown all the new puppies in the litter and could watch them playing together.

Here are more helpful questions to ask a breeder to help you to establish their credibility:

  • Ask why they chose the Daddy. The answer should show that they have thoughtfully considered the sire's temperament, history and health testing.

  • Ask for references; Cocker Spaniel breeders should happily provide names and telephone numbers of people who have previously bought puppies from them.

  • The Kennel Club allows kennels to register one litter of puppies per bitch each year. It doesn't allow breeding from bitches over 8 years old.

    Ideally, questions to ask a breeder should be centred around the following: How old is the Mum, and how many previous litters has she had. It should be no more than four or five, although, in some circumstances, the Kennel Club may allow a bitch to have six registered litters.

  • If you're looking for a show dog, ask whether or not a 4-5 generation pedigree can be provided. Also, ask for confirmation that the Cocker Spaniel puppies have been, or soon will be, registered with the Kennel Club.

  • Stick with Cocker Spaniel breeders who know the history of the sire and the dam and can explain their pedigree.

How Is The Puppy's Health?

Reputable breeders shouldn't be afraid or reluctant to discuss and offer information, not only on the good points of their Cocker Spaniel puppies but on problems associated with the breed.

Beautiful golden cocker spaniel puppy sitting in a meadow with yellow and white flowers in the background.Come on Mum, take the picture!

Reputable breeders shouldn't be afraid or reluctant to discuss and offer information on the good points of their Cocker Spaniel puppies and problems associated with the breed.

  • Ask if you should be aware of any health issues in the parents (or their puppies).

  • Ask if both parents have been tested and cleared for hip scores. Responsible Cocker Spaniel breeders will do this before mating their dogs.

  • Check that both parents are clear of eye problems and have been formally tested by a suitably authorized vet. They should be happy to show you the relevant certificates. (See CERF testing below).

  • Ask whether or not the puppies have been wormed, and if so, how many times.

    Puppies are usually wormed at around 2 weeks old and every 10-14 days after that. Your breeder will tell you what has been used and how and when to continue worming your puppy.

  • The pups won't be treated for fleas until they're around 7 or 8 weeks old, as certain chemicals in the treatment can be too harsh for pups as young as this.

    However, you should still check with your breeder to find out if any treatment has been given, what that treatment was, and when it was given.

  • Ongoing, your vet will advise you on what treatment to use and when.

  • It's unlikely that puppies under eight weeks will have been fully vaccinated. However, some may have their puppies part vaccinated before leaving the litter, sometimes as early as 7 weeks.

  • Opinion seems divided; some vets feel this is too early to vaccinate, while others are happy. You'll need to check with your Cocker Spaniel breeders (and vet) and make your own judgement.

Learn more about Cocker Spaniel health issues here.

What Is CERF Testing And Why Do I Need To Ask My Breeder About It?

If your breeder is genuinely passionate about Cocker Spaniels, their dogs are likely to have been CERF tested.

CERF stands for Canine Eye Registration Foundation and is an annual eye examination. They are given by a qualified veterinary ophthalmologist to determine and document the condition of the eyes in the breeder's dogs.

The Foundation aims to eliminate eye disease in purebred dogs and puppies.

Depending on the results, this information will determine whether or not the breeder will use this particular dog for breeding.

So, when looking for your perfect breeder, ask whether the puppy's 'parents' have been CERF tested and cleared.

Questions to Ask A Breeder: Do They Offer A Contract?

One of the most important questions to ask breeders is do they provide a contract.

If they are professional breeders, they will provide one, and you must check to see exactly what's included.

Ask what guarantees, if any, they offer under the contract. Some guarantee a replacement puppy should there be any problems with genetic health or temperament. You may also be offered a full refund as an alternative.

Some breeders have a system for reserving puppies and ask for a non-refundable deposit, so ask the breeder what their reservation policy is.

In certain exceptional circumstances, most breeders will agree to take back the puppy and rehome it.

The puppies should already have pet health insurance arranged and paid for by the breeder before they leave to go to a new home, but I recommend you check this. This cover usually lasts for 6 weeks.

Don't get caught out by the small print!

Questions To Ask A Breeder: What About Training And Socialization?

Ask what training the puppies will have had by the time they're ready to collect, and check whether they will be wholly or partly house-trained.

Ask what they have done (or are doing) to socialize their Cocker Spaniel puppies to allow you to continue where they left off.

Headshot of a black cocker spaniel puppy with long tongue out. Cluttered background.What a long tonuge!

Pups need to be handled gently, as early as possible and should meet as many people as possible; men and women in uniform, children, couriers, men with beards, older people, etc.

The puppies should also experience many household objects, such as umbrellas, washing machines, vacuums, brooms, washing blowing on the line, balloons, sirens, etc.

The list is almost endless!

Socializing your puppy is crucial and should be included in your pup's daily routine. A puppy who hasn't been adequately socialized will likely develop behavioural problems in adulthood.

Ask When You Can Take Your Puppy Home

Ask how old the puppy will be when you can take it home.

Puppies are usually weaned from the mother when they reach 5 or 6 weeks, but they're still too young to leave the mother and the littermates.

Puppies aged between 7-8 weeks are just about ready to leave for their new home; never before this!

English Cocker Spaniel Breeders: General Questions

Ask The Breeder About Pricing

If you don't already know the price of the puppies, ask, but don't insult the breeder by trying to negotiate the asking price for their puppies.

You could ask them how they differentiate between pet and show quality puppies and if their charges differ.

Don't Waste Your Breeders Time (Or Yours)!

At some point, you'll need the breeder's full contact details. It may be better to leave this question until the end of the conversation when you have a better idea of whether or not this is the right breeder for you.

Many breeders like to know how their puppies are getting on and often stay in touch with their buyers. Some form lasting, lifetime relationships with their buyers.

So, before you ask, consider whether or not you feel they're easy to talk to. Do they make you feel comfortable? Do you think that you could form a long-lasting relationship with the breeder?

If so, go for it!

Questions To Ask A Breeder: Summary

I hope I've given you enough information to help you feel more confident about contacting your shortlist of Cocker Spaniel breeders.

When all your questions have been answered, all that will be left will be to make arrangements to meet the breeder, view the puppies, and decide which puppy you like best.

However, don't leave choosing your puppy for too long, as good puppies sell quickly.

Good luck and enjoy!

Photo credits for Questions to Ask A Breeder:
1. Olena Marina at
2. Lilun at Dreamstime
3. Uciekinier at 
4. Visitors photo
5. Cynoclub at
6. Visitor photo